News and Notes

September 27, 2012

News and Notes

Bontrager Storms Paris – in a Good Way

If “April in Paris” is memorably a song, May in Paris is memorialized in a memory, at least for Shannon Bontrager, assistant professor of history.  He spent last May in Paris as a Memory and Memorialization research fellow exploring the relationship between memory, trauma and war during the 20th century.  The fellowship was sponsored by New York University, the Centre National de la Recherce Scientifique in Paris, the 9/11 Museum and Monument Commission in New York and the Museum of Caen in France.

Fellows from the United States attended the seminar in Paris while fellows from France came to New York.  Only six fellowships from the U.S. and six from France were granted.  The project is part of a multi-year, €2.7 million grant from the French government, which is sponsoring the international and interdisciplinary project.  Participants discussed the many different ways trauma and war affect the collective memory of national citizens and how it is represented through monuments and museums. The month-long seminar included scholars from a variety of disciplines such as history, biology, psychology, neurology and museum studies.

Bontrager received the fellowship based on his doctoral dissertation at Georgia State University, which examined the way both the American and French governments handled the war dead from the First World War.  That conflict was the first mass trauma of the new century.  The two governments turned the dead into public museums via mass cemeteries and war memorials, many of which included the names of the dead.  Bontrager was able to visit some of these memorials, including the Verdun battlefield in Neuse-Argonne and Omaha Beach, where he toured the American military cemetery.  He also visited the site of the Velodrome d’Hiver, where the roundup of Jewish immigrants by the Vichy French police took place in 1942, and the concentration camp where these immigrates were housed.

In French neuroscientist Yves Burnod’s presentation, “How Visitors Experience a Memorial: an Interdisciplinary Endeavor,” Burnod discussed how strategic use of color, sound and exhibit design neurologically impacted observers and suggested that museum planners could design their exhibits to appeal to neurological and sensory levels to display effectively the abstract ideas about war and trauma.

In the Louvre, at the Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres and at the Bibliotheque Nationale he collected thousands of photographs of historical objects and copies of primary source documents to use in his history classes here at GHC.

Brontrager’s air travel and accommodation were funded by the fellowship, but he also got supplemental funds for food and incidentals from the Office of Strategic Planning, Assessment and Accreditation, and a professional development grant from Rob Page, dean of Social Sciences, Business Administration and Education.

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Soumitra Chattopadhyay, professor of physics, assured that his summer physical science class had fun while learning about chemistry, geology, astronomy and meteorology.  He and the class visited the Tellus Museum and hosted Ken Cook, chief meteorologist from Fox 5-TV, Atlanta, who explained how the weather prediction is done in Atlanta and nationwide.  He also described what sort of equipment and what kind of modeling methods are used for this purpose.  Around that time, there was a tropical storm starting to develop in the Caribbean area, and he showed the class the details about it.  He predicted that as an after-effect of that developing storm, the metropolitan area would have rain showers in about four or five days from that date — and he was correct.

Green Highlands Recognized

The Georgia Recycling Coalition recently announced the 2012 Spirit of Green awards, which honored five organizations, at its annual conference in St. Simon’s Island at the end of August.  The Spirit of Green awards have recognized excellence in recycling and waste reduction for the past six year.  Winning for Outstanding Corporate Leader was USG Interiors of Cartersville.  The category goes to businesses that have implemented exemplary waste reduction and recycling programs for their industry.

USG provided the land and water for Green Highlands’ 50 by 50-foot vegetable garden.  The garden was tended by Green Highlands students and Devan Rediger, the club’s advisor.  The produce it yielded was donated to a local food pantry and a homeless shelter.  Green Highlands was recognized with USG in receiving the award.

Bontrager and Blankenship Selected for Bridging Cultures Project

Shannon Bontrager

The National Endowment for the Humanities and its co-sponsor the American Historical Association selected Shannon Bontrager, assistant professor of history, and Steve Blankenship, associate professor of history, to participate in the Bridging Cultures project.  The three-year effort includes just 24 faculty members from community colleges across the United States, who will bring a wider world-historical perspective to the United States survey course.  Participation in this faculty development project will provide innovative teaching techniques to American history classes, techniques that broaden the historical and chronological contexts for teaching U.S. history.  It also promotes a global perspective on American history at two-year colleges, which are becoming increasingly diverse.

Dr. Steve Blankenship

Dr. Steve Blankenship

Two faculty members from 12 colleges will attend two seminars, participate in ongoing online activities and then go to a final conference that caps off the project.  The American Historical Association’s website describes the program in detail: “Building on the emerging concept of ‘rim’ cultures, the group’s explorations will be guided by two distinguished scholars.  William Deverell, University of Southern California and Huntington Library, will lead the first project institute at the Huntington Library, in San Marino, California, January 2013.  The first institute will focus on the Pacific Ocean, especially the peoples and geomorphology of its eastern rim, as an organizing theme for understanding global connections within the history of imperial North America and the early U.S. republic between 1600 and 1850. The following year Philip Morgan, Johns Hopkins University, will lead an institute on the Atlantic Rim at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., January 2014.  This institute will use the Atlantic world, 1450-1850, as a framework for exploring intercultural contact, political and economic development and the emergence of an American society on the precipice of civil war.”

Blankenship and Bontrager were chosen from a broad field of applicants.

GHC Outlines Initiatives to Support Governor’s Complete College Georgia Priorities

Georgia Highlands College is implementing new programs and strengthening existing ones that help meet the goals of Governor Nathan Deal’s Complete College Georgia initiative.  Several directorship positions have been created to provide greater stewardship of key programs within the CCG framework.  Laura Musselwhite, interim vice president for academic and student affairs, spearheaded the institutional plan recently submitted to the governor’s office.  She said, “Many members of the college community have worked on this plan, with an eye toward meeting realistic objectives to increase the number of college graduates the state will need to stay competitive during the next decade.  As an access institution that welcomes students who may not be ready for four-year colleges or universities, we see the many challenges such students face as they try to navigate their way through higher education to meet their personal goals.  We already provide a high level of individual attention to students, but we believe that we’re on a positive trajectory toward increasing the rate of graduates coming through our doors.”

Graduation rates for two-year colleges have always been low – 12 percent within a four-year window, according to the most recent numbers.  By implementing new initiatives and strengthening others already in place, the college expects to increase graduation rates by 10 percent within the next three years.

The variety of new initiatives at GHC designed to help students graduate or transfer to a four-year institution include the following:

  • Launch of the Office of Community Outreach.  GHC has been hosting a series of Fabulous Fridays since 2008 to bring sixth graders to the college for an age-appropriate and fun introduction to the benefits college can offer.  Originally this program was confined to Floyd County, but the Douglasville campus now offers a similar program for the Douglas County community.  Plans are to expand to the other three campuses every two years, as resources and funds allow.  When the students who participated in Fabulous Fridays reach eighth grade, they are surveyed to assess their continued interest in college as they approach high school.  Under the new Office of Community Outreach, these same students will be brought back to GHC for an evening of information about attending the institution.  The Community Outreach office will eventually encompass veterans’ affairs, adult and service learning and other activities, in addition to Fabulous Fridays.
  • The college is also expanding dual enrollment options via partnerships with the College and Career Academy (Floyd County) and the Performance Learning Center (Cartersville).  These two programs allow high-school students to earn college credits to get a jump on their college career.
  • New articulation agreements are being forged with a number of four-year institutions throughout the region to make transferring seamless and easy for GHC students.
  • The Adult and Service Learning Program offers services to adult learners, a category that includes students who have delayed college enrollment by more than one calendar year after high school.  Its director will work closely with the coordinator of Veterans’ Services.  Because many factors are in play and important for adult learners, this office will offer a one-stop shop of support services.  Students will find information about prior learning credits, civic engagement, veterans’ affairs, time management, study skills and more.  The office works with the offices of Student Support Services to enable easier access to counseling or handicap services.  It also works closely with the First Year Experience program to help students new to college navigate the challenges more readily.
  • Shortened time to degree.  The Floyd campus is piloting a pre-nursing cohort for working adults that offers intensive, shortened pre-requisites to the nursing program in the evenings after work.  If successful, students will be able to apply for GHC’s nursing program in two years.  This year’s cohort will be able to enter the program fall 2014.  A similar program for business students is planned for the 2013-2014 academic year.
  • Study materials for COMPASS tests.  COMPASS testing now takes place before students are admitted, not after, as it was in previous years.  To help them prepare, GHC provides preparation materials via a link when students sign up for the tests.
  • Co-Requisite courses and flipped classrooms.  Research shows that students who take remedial courses while simultaneously enrolled in college-level courses are more successful, so GHC has adopted a model whereby students use the learning-support courses to help them with college-level work.  Doing so enables students to move more quickly.  Only students who scored close to the minimum required for college-level classwork will have this option.  Flipped classes reverse traditional methods: rather than listening to lectures in class and doing research or other homework out of the classroom, students listen to video-based instruction and do online tasks out of class, reserving class time to ask questions and get help related to the assigned tasks.

Georgia Highlands has also ramped up some of its programs and services already in existence to support the Complete College Georgia initiative.

  • Improved advising services will keep students focused on courses that lead directly to their degree choices without veering off-course with classes they don’t need.  Early Bird Advising, put in place several years ago, provides an opportunity for students to plan their schedules over several terms.  An early warning program requires notification from faculty members at the two-week point for attendance, the five-week point for participation and mid-term for grades.  Messages are sent to students who are flagged at these points telling them to seeking support from instructors, advisors or other sources.
  • Brother2Brother has been an extremely successful program designed to increase the success of minority male students.  Retention rates among students who were part of the program, fall to fall, were 75 percent compared to 61 percent for the college overall.  This program continues to increase in numbers.

Distance learning.  GHC has offered distance classes since 1994, available at first only through a local cable television channel in Rome.  Because of rapid changes in technology, this kind of instruction progressed from College by Cassette, then DVD, Web-based and hybrid courses, which combine online and in-class instruction.  GHC plans to offer four associate degrees completely by distance learning by fall 2013.

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